Emily Wortman-wunder's Reviews > The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
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's review
Sep 23, 2011

really liked it
Read in September, 2011

I listened to this book on tape, for some reason thinking that it would be...beachy, in an "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" sort of way. Erm...not so. Unrelated: it isn't recommended that you hold your breath while driving. Or shout, "Oh my GOD, the guy's a psycho, get OUT!" So I guess that the book does have plenty of beach-reading suspense; the writing is also fantastic, which if you've read any Theroux you'll know: the guy isn't lazy with his descriptions or his sentences and the whole thing crackles and pops like a flooded river. But the shining accomplishment of this book is the sheer domination achieved by the narrator's father, who starts out as an eccentric and outspoken inventor and ends up as sort of a charismatic one-family cult leader, one who isn't opposed to burning his family down along with himself, if that's what it takes to make his point/ get his way. While I think that the panicky-yet-riveted reaction I had every time the guy talked (and he talked a LOT) was clearly enhanced by the fact that it was being read to me and I couldn't skim, it was still an effect achieved with words, and how. There were some false notes: the venal and pop-culture-dazzled daughter of the missionary came across as a slightly grubby and bad-smelling cardboard cutout, which I felt was a disservice: surely a girl in her position would be more...interesting. Or at least not gross. And the mother...well, the mother was probably actually frustratingly accurate. I could not BELIEVE she still clung to her wretched monster of a husband after all that. But some people will, whether you believe it or not.

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